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Two stops in today's new global geographies: shaping novel labor supplies and employment regimes

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Two stops in today's new global geographies: shaping novel labor supplies and employment regimes

Autor institucional: NU. CEPAL. División de Asuntos de Género Physical Description: 44 páginas. Editorial: ECLAC Date: June 2008 ECLAC symbol: LC/L.2906-P ISBN: 9789211216783


Across the centuries, the international division of labor has included a variety of translocal circuits for the mobility of labor and capital (Wallerstein 1974; Froebel et al. 1980; Potts 1990; Silver 2003; Koo 2001; Aneesh 2006; Khotari 2006; Smith and Favell 2006). These circuits have varied considerably across time and space, shaped at least partly by the specific constitution of labor and capital.Many of these older circuits continue to exist today. But there are often new dynamics that feed them. And there are new types of circuits as well. One outcome is the emergence of novel global geographies, which cut across the old North-South divide. They are constituted through a variety of familiar processes: the increasingly globalized operations of firms and markets, through the multiplication of firms' affiliates and partnerships, through labor migrations and people trafficking networks. These new geographies are also constituted by far less familiar dynamics, such as new types of mobility through digitization and virtual outsourcing (Aneesh 2006) and, perhaps at the other end, global peddling (Khotari 2006).One of the more complex formations to arise from these conditions, and a key focus in this paper, is the incipient formation of global labor markets at the top and at the bottom of the economic system (Sassen 1988; 2006: chapters 5, 6 and 7; Smith and Favell 2006). One of these is the transnational market for top-level managerial and professional talent comprising a variety of economic sectors, from finance to highly specialized engineering, and characterized by a growing set of public and private regulations (Sassen 2006: chapter 5). The other type of global labor market consists of an amalgamation of mostly informal flows, with perhaps the most visible circuits those of the “global care chains” (Parreñas 2001; Ehrenreich and Hochschild 2003). The middle sectors of firms and of the workforce in developed countries remain overwhelmingly centered in nationally scaled labor markets. These two global labor markets are constituted through multiple specialized circuits and are far from clearly legible as global labor markets; thus the aggregation implied by the notion of a global labor market is an analytic step. In fact, these global markets are generally seen through the lens of local labor markets in the places at issue; the tendency is to overlook the fact that some of these local labor markets might also be one site in global labor market circuits.There are sites with multiple intersections among the diverse circuits comprising these two global labor markets. This paper focuses on two such sites, one in the global south and one in the global north. Given space limitations and the focus of this special issue, I confine myself largely to the lower labor circuits and within these, to those where women are the key labor supply. One site for such intersections is the global city; specifically the forty plus global cities that today constitute a kind of organizational platform for the global economy. The other site is a set of global south countries, or sub-national regions within them, subject to the international debt-financing regime, which put governments, firms and households under enormous constraints to survive. Becoming part of global labor migrations increasingly emerges as one survival strategy for people in these countries; this in turn produces synergies both with governments' growing dependence on migrants' remittances, and with trafficking as one entrepreneurial option. Focusing on women is particularly illuminating in the current phase; they emerge as actors situated at the intersection of major dynamics, ranging from hyperindetedness among governments of poor countries to the mix of labor markets that secure the necessary functions in global cities.